Boyzlife are Coming Home For Christmas in Belfast
Former Westlife and Boyzone members Brian McFadden and Keith Duffy are holding two special gigs at the Europa Hotel
Crazy fans, great bars and unwavering support mean the only way is Belfast for Boyzlife.
Former Westlife and Boyzone members Brian McFadden and Keith Duffy are Coming Home For Christmas with two special festive gigs at the Europa Hotel.
“Belfast is only an hour and 20 minutes away from where we live in Dublin and yet it feels like we’re somewhere a million miles away,” Keith told Sunday Life.
“People in Dublin couldn’t give a s**t sometimes but, in Belfast, people are so friendly and everyone is great.
“Plus we’ve had some very good nights out up here.”
Brian, who left Westlife for personal reasons in 2004, added: “We both have really great memories of playing the King’s Hall and the Odyssey Arena.
“The audience has definitely changed, though. They are a lot louder and can drink now so they’re much more responsive.”
As if on cue, a fan interrupts our chat at the Europa Hotel to ask for a selfie with the much-loved pair.
“We don’t get mobbed in a bad way, people are really nice to us,” smiled Brian.
After more than two decades in the music industry, the Irish duo admit they’ve come a long way from their first gigs in 1995 for Keith with Boyzone and 2001 for Brian with Westlife.
Their two Christmas concerts at the Belfast hotel are a big ‘thank you’ to the fans that have supported them from the start.
“I remember being at the King’s Hall years ago and the nine o’clock news was outside interviewing us with the people queuing in the background,” said dad-of-two Keith. “There were both sides of the divide coming together, with no politics at all, and that was the story. It was amazing for us to be a part of and I know Westlife had similar experiences so we’re very grateful for the fans up here who still make it the venue that sells out the fastest out of every other one on the tour all these years later.”
Keith’s first experience of Belfast was appearing on the Gerry Kelly Show in the early 90s with Boyzone. The band stayed at the Europa and dined at Stormont.
He said: “You could still smoke indoors then and I remember it being the first place I’d ever been to where there was fine dining.
“I sat down and was handed a menu and I didn’t understand anything on it because we didn’t come from posh backgrounds. My tour manager had to explain the menu and then tell me what the cutlery was for!”
The former Coronation Street star, 42, added: “We were trying to find out who we were at the beginning (of Boyzone and Westlife).
“There’s ego and pride in a band in the male kind of way so I suppose there was a little bit of competition but we always got along. You grow out of that and now you’re not interested in that.
“Brian and I aren’t jockeying for a position any more, we complement each other both on stage and off it.
“In the early days, you’d brush things under the carpet or cover up the cracks but now we speak honestly about each other.”
ITV’s Who’s Doing The Dishes host Brian added: “What he means is that we’re good enough mates that we can rip the p**s out of each other and get on with it. If we have a few little niggles on tour, we’re over it in five minutes.”
While the talented duo look back fondly on their time in Belfast with their respective boybands, they enjoy the freedom their new Boyzlife venture has allowed them.
“There are so many options for us now,” said 36-year-old Brian.
“We might record an album in the New Year because a lot of the songs are our own versions.
“It’s not like when we were in the bands and signed to a record label and had to do what we were told, we can do what we want.
“If an offer comes in to do a load of gigs, our manager calls us up and we sit down together and decide whether or not we want to do it, and that's it.”
But Keith and Brian admit they had to fall in love with some of their old bands’ music again.
Brian said: “It’s funny because you hate singing the ones that were the biggest. For me, I have a love/hate relationship with Swear It Again because I sang it so much when I was in Westlife. It was our first single so we promoted and sang it all over the world so that got a bit annoying, but now it’s me and Keith it’s something different.
“I really enjoyed doing the Boyzone songs because it was a new experience but it was hard because the first thing you remember is Ronan Keating doing the song and he has such a distinct voice, so we had to mix it up a bit and make it our own.”
But the best pals have had plenty of time to work together on their music and consider their Boyzlife plans now that they’re neighbours.
“We’ve known each other for a long time and, in the early days, Westlife supported Boyzone so it just went from there,” said dad-of-two Brian.
“We’re like Joey and Chandler now, two best mates living beside each other and if we need our washing done we take it over to the big house. If we want a quiet drink, we go to my house.”
Keith added: “My son is 20 and he’s just moved in with Brian too.
My granny died unexpectedly last week too and Brian was away, but I have the keys to his house.
“We had a family gathering and all my cousins are girls so they were all sobbing and I was trying to be the tough guy so I didn’t have a drink because I knew I’d get emotional.
“I needed a drink though because the funeral was the next day, so I went over to Brian’s house. My wife thought I was at the family house but I was actually sitting in Brian’s house having a few vodkas and a little cry!
“The two of us are just having fun at the minute, doing what we want to do and enjoying every minute of it. We’re really looking forward to seeing what happens.”
For tickets for Coming Home For Christmas at The Europa Hotel on December 18 and 19, visit www.BoyzlifeTour.com/Christmas. The Boyzlife Documentary is also available for pre-order now at www.BoyzlifeTour.com/DVD